Life as a New Generation Artist

Baritone Benjamin Appl tells us about his experience on the BBC's scheme for exceptional young performers

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Life as a New Generation Artist
Benjamin Appl
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Born and brought up in Germany, the baritone Benjamin Appl's teachers have included the great Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. In 2014, he was invited to join the BBC's New Generation Artists scheme which, for two years, sees exceptional young performers take part in a range of studio and concert engagements for broadcast on Radio 3. Here, Appl tells us about his experiences…

 

NEW…

'When I heard the great news that I was to join that distinguished list of singers who’ve been BBC New Generation Artists, I found it difficult to believe. I had already heard from colleagues and friends about the scheme and, of course, I listened on the radio to many recordings of my predecessors. There was an immediate change to my professional life, but not only in terms of engagements through the BBC (studio recordings, concerts, collaborations, interviews…) but also how I saw myself as an artist.

'I started to examine myself and my singing in a new light. As a New Generation Artist (NGA), everything you do is recorded and broadcast, and this has made me listen to myself more than ever before - and in the process I’ve learned a great deal about my voice.

'Frankly, this hasn’t always been easy. Your singing comes across differently in your inner-ear than it does outside your body. I’ve had to learn to use the recording time wisely. A singer’s voice gets tired quite easily compared to other musicians, whose instruments will keep going and going. Singers can’t keep repeating the same bar over and over for four hours. It tires out the voice, and wastes time. Recording is a lesson in how to economise in the best way.

'Every NGA is allowed to perform or record a piece of music just once within the two years. I had to plan very carefully, so I didn’t use up all my favourite repertoire in just a few months. It also encouraged me to prepare and work constantly on new repertoire. This needs a lot of self-discipline, and can sometimes be frightening, but I think of it as an investment for the future.

'Once I got a call only the day before to replace a singer who was ill for a live broadcast of a lunchtime concert in Aberdeen. How challenging it was to put together, at such short notice, an hour-long programme which made perfect sense and didn’t either include pieces I had already performed or those I wanted to keep for later! But it was an exciting experience.'

 

GENERATION…

'Baritones are not in short supply, so I feel particularly fortunate to have been selected for the NGA scheme at this point in my career. Careers, especially in the singing world, are becoming shorter as the focus continuously moves onto the new young artists. This worries me from time to time. The BBC NGA scheme is different though. Not just because of the large number of recordings we have the opportunity to make, but also in the connection an NGA makes with the BBC orchestras, with promoters, with people who think long-term in this world.

'I don’t know of any other radio station in the world which believes so strongly in the new generation, supports them, and gives them so many opportunities. I am very grateful for so many of these, especially my close collaborations with BBC Scottish Symphony and BBC Philharmonic orchestras, and my two BBC Proms appearances in 2015. And the chance to make my Australian debut at the first ever BBC Proms Australia last month was, of course, a huge highlight!'

 

ARTIST!

'Over the last eighteen months, I have had the pleasure of making such wonderful musical associations with other artists. First of all, I very much enjoy working with the different BBC Orchestras and their different conductors. To listen to such experienced musicians is almost like a voice lesson or a coaching session. I think to really listen is such an important thing in music, because you can learn so much when you keep your ears open to what is going on around you.

'But it is also wonderful to find musical partners and friends within the "family" of NGAs! I have started to work regularly with the pianist Pavel Kolesnikov. I find his approach inspiring as he is a solo pianist, rather than an accompanist, and thus starts from a completely different point of view. We have already planned some projects together, outside the scheme.

Last autumn I also had the chance to record Barber’s Dover Beach with the wonderful Armida Quartet, which I enjoyed enormously. Getting a chance to work with people who are fantastic musicians, great colleagues and impressive human beings is something, which enriches my life a lot. All this and even more is part of my time as a BBC NGA – a programme that has substantially changed my professional life. I cannot thank the BBC enough for not only establishing this scheme but also for giving me so many opportunities and putting so much trust in me.'

 

  • Article Type: | Blog |
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